Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Ontario to end basic income program

The Guardian, TORONTO

Ontario’s new Conservative government has said it would scrap the province’s basic income pilot, calling it expensive and unsustainable, and bringing an abrupt end to North America’s first government-backed trial of the idea in decades.

The previous Liberal government launched the pilot program last year, touting it as a unique three-year foray into a policy touted as a panacea to poverty, bloated bureaucracy and the rise of precarious work.

The C$150 million (US$115.2 million) pilot program recruited 4,000 participants across three regions of the Canadian province, ranging from people working in low-paying or precarious jobs to those on social assistance.

Even at its launch, uncertainty hung over whether the multi-year project would survive Ontario’s June election.

In April, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives said that the party would push forward with the trial.

Months later, the party, led by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, swept into government on promises to lower gas prices, slash government spending and reintroduce “buck-a-beer.”

Soon after, the new government seemingly reversed its position on basic income, and on Tuesday, Ontario Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod announced the end of the pilot, which she said was “quite expensive” and “clearly not the answer for Ontario families.”

She did not back her stance with any data, despite being pressed by reporters, and refused to say how or when the progam would end.

“It was certainly not going to be sustainable,” she said. “Spending more money on a broken program wasn’t going to help anyone.”

In Canada, where nearly one in five children live in poverty — a rate that is among the highest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development — leaders from across the political spectrum have championed the idea of basic income.

After Ontario launched its pilot, recipients began detailing how their lives had changed: The funds had afforded them healthier food, warm clothes for winter and even a long-postponed visit to the dentist.

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